In Perfect Order
How To Set Your Formal Dining Table
Setting a formal table is a valuable skill.
By now, the holidays are just around the corner, or in some cases, have already arrived. One of the best ways to really get into the spirit of the season is to host a formal dinner for friends and family.
The foundation, of course, of any formal occasion, starts with the table, and the settings thereupon.
When setting a table, it’s important to keep in mind the company who will be attending, and the kind of meal being served.
For many families, comfort means not having to stand on ceremony. During the hectic holiday season, it might be just as valuable to set up an informal family table.
This process is very simple. An all-purpose meal plate rests at the place setting, flanked on the left by a napkin, with a fork closest to the plate. On the right, a knife and teaspoon, with a dinner glass just above the knife.
This is a simple, basic set-up that will make any table seem well-mannered but low-key.
For more formal occasions, such as lunches, brunches or semi-casual multi-course dinners with family and friends, it’s important to step up the table setting to account for more choices.
Starting with the basic set-up, add a salad fork to the left of main course fork. Above the napkin to the left, add a bread plate and bread knife. Directly above the meal plate, add desert silverware (spoon and knife) perpendicular to the rest of the silverware on the table. Finally, by swapping out the non-descript glassware for red and white wine glasses, the table is ready for almost any serving scenario.
Last but not least, is the daunting and impressive set-up for the most formal of dining occasions. It’s not often that someone has cause to turn their own dining room table into a bastion of manners and formality, but the holidays are certainly a time to push the very limits of decorum to their primmest extreme.
Another plate, the salad plate, is introduced, and takes the place of the napkin, which will, of course, migrate to the attendees lap. A salad fork is placed between the salad plate and dinner fork, and the bread knife and plate remain in place above them. To the far right is the soup spoon, then the teaspoon and the knife, blade edge facing towards the dinner plate. Above are three glasses, a water goblet, which has been added to the left of the red and white wine glasses. The red wine glass is broader while the white wine glass is taller and narrower, designed to help the contents hold a cold temperature, ideally 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, either beforehand or with a desert course, a coffee cup and saucer is introduced with a small sugar spoon.
This most formal set-up, while the most arduous to arrange and maintain, will guarantee the admiration of loved ones at any holiday occasion.
However you choose to serve over the holidays, be sure to remember there is no substitute for the warmth of family and friends.